Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps 10-man Whitecaps lose on controversial Ruiz goal

10-man Whitecaps lose on controversial Ruiz goal

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The Vancouver Whitecaps gave it their best shot to maintain their perfect season here yesterday against the Philadelphia Union and their boisterous Sons of Ben fan club —which cheers its heroes and jeers the opposition nonstop the entire game.  They really did. But in the end the Caps simply couldn’t overcome a red card to striker Eric Hassli — his second yellow-card infraction of the day — forcing them to play a man down the final 35 minutes.

The Union applied consistent pressure from there, finally converting an opportunity goal from Carlos Ruiz in the 79th minute to squeeze out a 1-0 win that might’ve been a different story otherwise.

“Obviously playing a man down for a long time is tough,’’ said Whitecaps’ coach Teitur Thordarson, whose club had slightly the better of play until forced to play short-footed. “Until then I thought we played quite well and had some chances.

“We played as we planned, but to lose a man obviously has a huge influence on the game.  I’m not unhappy with the way we played. I’m unhappy with the result.’’

That seemed to be the feeling throughout the Vancouver locker room, the Whitecaps knowing they acquitted themselves well despite what the scoreboard said.

Even after Hassli collided with Philadelphia’s Carlos Valdes, who tumbled to the ground as if shot, riling up the sellout crowd and resulting in his second yellow and an automatic ejection, the Whitecaps held their own over the next 20 minutes. Ultimately, the constant pressure Philadelphia applied, knowing Vancouver was focusing on defence rather than attack, was too much.

“I think if it’s 11 (men) to 11 we can hold it to zero-zero or maybe have a chance to score,’’ said defender Alain Rochat, following a physical game in which eight cards were handed out, five to Vancouver.  “But with 10 it’s difficult.

“You’re running everywhere on defence. You lose your concentration a bit because you’re tired,  You don’t make the run exactly as you should.

“Our quality was there.  Unfortunately they got an unlucky goal.’’

The game winner came after the Whitecaps cleared the ball, only to have the Union send it right back in.  When a pass skidded off the side of defender Greg Janicki’s head to Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux, Vancouver goalie Joe Cannon—playing for the first time since breaking his ankle last August—knew he was in trouble. Once Cannon came towards Le Toux, he crossed it perfectly to Ruiz, who had virtually an open net.  The only question was if the play was offside?  No whistle blew, so the goal stood.

“It had some spin on it, so I wasn’t able to clear it out,’’ said Janicki, who thought the Whitecaps did a pretty good job compensating for the absence of three international players—including Jay DeMerit—along with some injured ones.  “I guess I have to do a better job with the clear.

“But I thought for the most part we did well defensively.  When you go a man down you’d love to play for the draw.  We just got unlucky.’’

Cannon, who was far busier than Philadelphia’s counterpart Faryd Mondragon, saw some pluses even in their disappointment.   “I can’t see all the angles, but I thought both Sebastien and Carlos were offside on that goal,’’ said Cannon, who had made a terrific save moments earlier on Ruiz from point blank range among his three saves. “There wasn’t much I could do on that play.

“I was probably more nervous than I have been since I can remember. It was exciting to get out there and show what I could do.  I definitely had some anxiety before the game.

“I just wish we could’ve given our fans something.’’

Maybe they’ll fly home today with nothing to show for it in the MLS standings.  But for  a first year expansion team to play such a solid game in a hostile environment has to be encouraging in the big picture. No, the Vancouver Whitecaps are no longer perfect.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not a better team today now and in the long run than it was before.

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